Travelling in southeast Asia is an adventure for all the senses; you’ll be blinded by the lights of Bangkok and the white sand beaches that line the coast, confronted by the scents of sizzling street food and endless motorcycle fumes, and stifled by the heat, humidity and intriguing culture at every turn.
Your taste buds will go on a journey all of their own, and one that should be exploited, with so many options it’s important not to miss out on any of these tantalising treats. Here’s thirteen of my favourite southeast Asian dishes to set you in the right direction!
1. Fish Amok, Cambodia
This creamy coconut curry made with soft, white fish is a staple on any Khmer menu and shouldn’t be missed when you are travelling in Cambodia.
2. Phở, Vietnam
Pronounced ‘fuuuuuuur’, this noodle soup is possibly the most well-known and easily attainable dish in Vietnam, and it deserves the reputation it holds. No need to splash out (well except for the splashes of soup that will undoubtedly leave the bowl as you slurp up it’s delicious-ness) – this one is just as good on the side of the street at a local café as it is in any restaurant!
3. Thai Curry, specifically Massaman, Thailand (duh!)
Everyone flocks towards the well-known green and red curries in Thailand, but it’s worth sampling some of the other flavours, like spicy phang-ngan or delicious massaman, a peanut based, medium spiced curry base, great with chicken or beef.
4. The ‘gorengs’, preferably with tempeh, Indonesia
Nasi (rice) and mie (noodles) goreng (fried) are staples across Indonesia and to be honest, it would be an achievement to make it through any trip duration to the islands without tucking into both of these dishes. A great addition is tempeh, tofu’s crunchier brother, a vegetarian protein made from soy beans!
5. Green Tea Leaf Salad, Myanmar
This peanut and tea leaf cold salad is common throughout Myanmar and has a sweet and sour flavour that your tastebuds will become hooked on, don’t be put off by the unusual idea of eating tea!
6. Beef Lok Lak, Cambodia
Alongside Amok, this is a widely available and popular Cambodian meal of stir-fried beef in a sweet sauce served with rice, salad and, very importantly, a fried egg on top.
7. Khao Soi, Thailand (Chiang Mai)
This curry-meets-noodles fare is a serving that you’ll miss for months after you return home- a ‘real’ Thai meal, it combines a lot of the best things that Thai food can offer you, and is mostly available in the northern areas of the country, from where it originates.
8. Bánh Mì, Vietnam
The ‘sub’ of southeast Asia, available on every street corner around the country, these sandwiches are a mixture of meat or an omelette, salads, sauces and spices that create something truly tasty, and an ideal packed meal for a long bus journey – a winner any time of the day.
9. Stir Fried Pineapple Rice, Southern Thailand
Worth it for the Instagram photo if nothing else, this fried rice has sweet pineapple running through it and is served in a pineapple ‘shell’ to add beauty to flavour!
10. Bánh Xèo, Vietnam and Cambodia
The origins of this Asian pancake are somewhat controversially acclaimed to both Cambodia and Vietnam. Stuffed with beansprouts, shrimp, chicken and vegetables, with a peanut and chilli dipping sauce on the side, you won’t care where it started, just that you can get it in both countries!
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11. Shan Noodles, Myanmar
Particularly those served at 555 Shan Noodle in Yangon, these sticky noodles with chicken, peanuts, chillis and bucketful’s of flavour are a staple for a Burmese adventure.
12. Spicy Papaya Salad (Vietnam) or Som Tam (Thailand)
A great excuse to order a salad- a spicy papaya offering (sometimes with mangoes!), which combines sour green papaya with chilli, peanuts, shrimp and lots of other flavours to make it all the tastier – ask for it mild if you don’t like chillis as it is often served very, very hot!
13. Cau Lao, Vietnam (Hoi An speciality)
Cau Lao is a fried or steamed noodle dish with pork (or other meats), traditional to the Hoi An area and worth seeking out whilst you are there! The steamed version is more of a soup, the fried is noodle-tastic and it makes a nice regional variation from pho!
So there you have it, a southeast Asian adventure for your taste buds! When you arrive in a new country, I highly recommend taking a cooking class so that you can try out some common dishes, learn more about their ingredients and importantly, identify your favourites for the rest of the trip!
Image source: pexels.com, pixabay.com & foodiesfeed.com